What is this? This term is as offensive as it is oxymoronic. Apparently, none of you tossing around this very pejorative term, “hyper-grace” is familiar with the supernatural power of “saving grace,” nor the Book of Romans in the New Testament (that explains the basis of this extraordinary gift from GOD). It seems to undermine GOD by discrediting those who might apply an overstated understanding of grace–as if to suggest, “GOD cannot do this.” How do you know?
Since when did preachers of “salvation by grace” say that holiness and righteousness is not commanded? I haven’t heard many preachers say that holiness was not important and necessary to live in this life at peace and in communion with the Father. But, then again, I have never heard a “hyper-grace” offender. Who are they? Is this a new epithet aimed at Calvinism? Proffered by the same folks who coined “Hyper-Calvinism?”
Dr. Michael L. Brown (American Messianic Jew, Arminian) must have invented this word, for he is writing books and posting furiously about it on social media. Essentially, it is a highly offensive label not-so-subtly intended for Reformed teachers and preachers. What do I mean? Well, examples of this “hyper-grace” (at the bottom) by those alleging it are simply so egregious–that none of it cannot be taken seriously. And, it surely does not apply to any preachers of any integrity or stature in the reformed community. No, it is just the latest ruse by which opponents seek to discredit Reformed or Calvinist interpretations of scripture, specifically “salvation by grace” messages, by conflating it with truly heretical and false teachings about sin and repentance.
It is terminology like “hyper-grace” which sows dissension among fellow Christians. Attacks allege that “hyper-grace” is the notion that grace is a “get out of Hell free card” or that “sin has no consequence,” because we can sin freely and “get a pass” with grace alone. Nonsense. Sure, I have heard this kind of heresy before, but not by any serious theologians–and certainly none of any stature.
“Hyper-grace” ascribed to intellectually honest reformers is no more accurate than calling Arminians keepers and “heapers” of Old Testament “fire and brimstone” judgment upon others. However, people using this new term to tear down each other are exhibiting arrogance and boastfulness–as if to suggest one’s “works” can keep him saved. It is even Pharisaical, as if to say, “we can do this on our merits.” Wrong. Our works are simply not sufficient. We sin continuously and must confess those sins constantly. Even still, we cannot work our way into heaven. Only by the blood of Christ and by his grace are we saved!
Man is utterly depraved. Regeneration is not a cure-all for sin, and it is a daily struggle to remain holy. But, that does not mean we stop trying, nor does it mean we are damned. We cannot do enough to save ourselves. We cannot be sufficiently holy. Without the saving grace of our Lord and Savior, we cannot stand before the judgment seat of the Lord. Seriously, are you “good enough?” To suggest that your narrow path and wondrous works lead to salvation is works-righteousness, and that is a false doctrine.
So, how do these guys characterize this, “hyper-grace”?
Joseph G. Mattera had the following to say about “hyper-grace” in a piece on CharismaNews.com. This is completely absurd, for starters. What he describes below is not hyper-grace; it is non-Biblical. It is non-doctrinal. The new trick by Anti-Calvinists is to conflate reformed preachers of sound doctrine with antinomian apostates and heretics…
The following are signs of a hyper-grace church (according to Anti-Calvinist, Mattera):
1. The preachers never speak against sin.
If you are in a church like this, you will notice that the word sin is usually only mentioned in the context of forgiveness of sins in Christ but hardly ever in the context of taking a stand against sin, except of course when they condemn the sin of “legalists” and “Pharisees” who are the ministers they denigrate for preaching against sin.
2. The lead pastor never takes a cultural stand for righteousness.
When issues like abortion come up, these pastors will shy away from mentioning it because they are afraid of offending new people. I can understand this to a point. But I counter that we as ministers of Christ are obligated to at least mention our positions publicly so that we use it as a teaching moment for the sheep following us. Not saying anything about an issue like abortion is another way of condoning it!
3. The Old Testament is almost totally ignored.
In these churches, the Old Testament is treated as only types and shadows for sermon illustrations but has no real value regarding our standard of living today. As I show in this article, my position is that the New Testament and Old Testament are organically connected, with the New building upon the Old, not eradicating it altogether!
4. People who live immoral lives are allowed to teach and lead ministries.
One pastor was telling me that sexual immorality and drunkenness is rampant in many evangelical churches—even amongst small group leaders and other leaders in local churches! This is because there is very little accountability.
5. The lead pastor speaks often against the institutional church.
Many hypergrace pastors constantly denounce churches that are conservative in their values because they believe those churches represent the “old school” that is no longer relevant to today’s culture.
6. The lead pastor preaches against tithing.
Although I believe tithing carried over into the New Testament, I believe it is more of a biblical principle that preceded the Law of Moses (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob all tithed before Moses gave the Law), was taught by Jesus (Matt. 23) and was mentioned in other passages, like Hebrews 7.
These pastors denounce tithing as a law that was done away with in Christ. (For more on this, read my position paper entitled “Is Tithing in the New Testament?”)
7. The lead pastor only preaches positive motivational messages.
Those attending hypergrace churches only hear positive messages on health, wealth, prosperity, God’s love, God’s forgiveness and how to succeed in life. Although I also agree with and teach on these topics, we have to be careful to include in our preaching the whole counsel of God so that we feed the flock a balanced diet instead of just the sweetness of feel-good messages. We must do this so we are free from the blood of all men (Acts 20:26-27).
8. Key members of the church are regularly living sinful lives with impunity.
Those attending a hypergrace church will most likely find that, because of the strong emphasis on grace—with no teaching against sin or on repentance, judgment or hell—there is an atmosphere of loose living, with many involved in sexual immorality and drunkenness as well as other physical vices.
The reason for this is “the law is our schoolmaster that leads us to Christ” (Gal. 3:24) because through the (moral) law comes the knowledge of sin (Rom. 3:20). If the moral law of the Ten Commandments is not preached or alluded to, then in ignorance the people will live foolish lives and will be like the blind leading to blind because “where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law” (Prov. 28:18).
In conclusion, there are many other things I could mention regarding hypergrace churches and their preaching, like how it is one step away from universalism (the belief that all people will eventually be saved, whether they believe the gospel or not, e.g. Love Wins by Rob Bell) and liberalism, because an increasing amount of Scripture is eviscerated because it is culturally offensive (like husbands being the head of the house, views on homosexuality, etc.).
I believe antinomianism is a dangerous trend in evangelicalism and is something we need to lovingly take a stand against with our brothers and sisters who espouse it.
Joseph G. Mattera is overseeing bishop of Resurrection Church, Christ Covenant Coalition, in Brooklyn, N.Y. You can read more on josephmattera.org or connect with him on Facebook or Twitter.
Modern-day Pharisees and anti-Calvinists are out there claiming that reformed theologians and preachers espouse “sinning for free” or “Get out of Hell Free.” It is ridiculous and a gross mischaracterization of Paul’s message to the Romans. It is also ridiculous to be promoting works-righteousness as a way to heaven. But, that is precisely the soteriological message folks like Brown and Mattera are selling.